Otoplasty is the formal term for ear reshaping surgery or ear pinning. The purpose of this cosmetic procedure is to reduce the prominence of the ears, which may project away from the head or may fold forward or be otherwise deformed. Because otoplasty falls into the category of plastic surgery, there may be a perception that age is a vital consideration for this procedure. In fact, it is; but maybe not in the traditional sense.
A Matter of Maturity
Typically, when we are discussing cosmetic plastic surgery, we point out the importance of emotional maturity, as well as physical maturity. For instance, rhinoplasty is typically not performed until at least the age of 15, sometimes years later. This is because the nose matures through the teen years, and we do not want to alter its structure before the completion of physical development. Whether or not a young person has the emotional maturity to manage the somewhat long recovery from rhinoplasty varies from one to another. Otoplasty does not follow this standard.
The ears reach physical maturity between the ages of 4 and 5, in most cases. A child has relatively little time with protruding or abnormally shaped ears and so is less likely to experience emotional distress due to the physical change in appearance. In fact, emotional wellness is one of the leading reasons why parents seek otoplasty for younger children.
To have otoplasty before starting school can mean a completely different social experience for the child with large and extruding ears. Parents fears that their child may be bullied are alleviated when the ears are carefully reshaped, and the child is better able to grow up with a strong sense of self-esteem. Additionally, the malleability of cartilage in a child’s ears facilitates a smoother reshaping process.
The greatest challenge in otoplasty in the young child is recovery. Not because it is painful, but because a headband-like bandage must be worn for a short time, and the child cannot sleep on either side until the ears have healed. Strategies must be implemented to support back-sleeping.
Otoplasty may be a procedure that we like to discuss during childhood, but that does not mean an adult cannot undergo this procedure. Any time that a procedure will support a better sense of wellness is a good time to consult with an experienced plastic surgeon.
Call our office near New Orleans to schedule your consultation with Dr. James.